Shea butter is the final product extracted from the fatty nuts of the Shea plant. Shea plants are the most common in the African regions of 'Shea belt,' but can also be cultivated in other places with special care. The scientific name of Shea plants is Vitellaria paradoxa. In India, too, some orchard owners do farm shea plants. With a highly nutritious pulp, the Shea fruit contains the highly potent kernel from which the oil is extracted to make the butter.
Shea butter is mainly popular for its cosmetic benefits, but it is also edible and used in certain traditional dishes. It is one of the luxurious elements used in skin products such as moisturizers, body washes, soaps, and lip balms. It is also used in hair care products owing to its softening properties. The olfactory quality of shea butter is intense, and thus it is used in candles and perfumes too. Shea butter is used for cooking special dishes owing to its strong flavors. It is also used in chocolate making, sometimes instead of cocoa butter too, giving it a strikingly different taste. It is also an important Ayurvedic element as it is known to treat Vata and Pitta Doshas related to hair and skin. The enrichment of Shea butter is due to its high consistency of Vitamin E and fatty acid.
The Origin of the Word Shea Butter
The English nomenclature "shea" comes from s'í, the tree's name in Bambara. It is known by other local names such as Kpakahili in Dagbani, taama in Waala, nkuto in Twi, kaɗe or kaɗanya in Hausa, Òkwùmá in Igbo language, òrí in Yoruba language, karité in the Wolof language of Senegal, or some parts of West Africa among many other.
Shea's common name is shísu (lit. "shea tree") in the Bambara language of Mali. This is the English word's actual origin, the primary pronunciation of which is /ʃiː/ (rhyming with "tea"). The same tree is called ghariti in the Wolof language of Senegal, which is the origin of the tree's French name and the butter, karité.
Historical Use of Shea Butter
The history of Shea Butter as an invaluable skincare product dates back to the times of Ancient Egypt. Queen Cleopatra was known to have always kept jars of pure, unrefined shea butter on hand. The secrets behind her eternal beauty are also credited to this same shea butter.
Shea Butter is known as "women's gold" in Africa because it is a valuable source of income and beauty for the women in Ghana. Global trade of shea butter dated back to Cleopatra's Egypt and was a popular trade item in the Middle Ages throughout West Africa and into the coastal regions. It was exported to European countries and was considered as valuable as oil. As the trade of Shea Butter spread, it's various uses began to diversify into things like soap and nasal decongestant. In India, Shea butter was not historically very popular though it is known to be used in Ayurveda treatments to cure Vati and Pitta doshas related to skin and hair.
Benefits of Using Shea Butter
Shea butter is considered a magical and prized plant product for its innumerable benefits. Shea butter extract is a complex fat that, in addition to many no saponifiable components, contains the following fatty acids: oleic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, linolenic acid, and arachidic acid. Shea butter is noticeably used in the cosmetics industry for skin- and hair-related products (lip gloss, lipstick, skin moisturizer creams and emulsions, and hair conditioners for dry, flaky, and brittle hair). Soap makers and massage oil manufacturers also use it because of the same benefits, typically in small amounts because it has plenty of unsaponifiable, and higher amounts result in a softer soap with less cleaning ability. The main properties of Shea butter are anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory and are also rich in Vitamin E.
In some African countries, shea butter is used for cooking oil for traditional dishes, as a waterproofing wax for hairdressing, for candle-making, and as an ingredient in medicinal ointments. Makers of traditional percussion instruments use it to increase wood durability (such as carved djembe shells), dried calabash gourds, and leather tuning straps.
Shea butter is also used as a base for medicinal ointments due to the isolated chemical constituents that have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, emollient, and humectant properties. Shea butter has been used as a sun-blocking lotion as it has the capacity to absorb ultraviolet radiation. For pharma logical purposes, shea butter is used for the management of sinusitis and relief of nasal congestion. It is also massaged into joints and other parts of the body where pain occurs due to its relaxing effects. Shea butter melts at body temperature. Proponents of its use for skincare maintain that it absorbs rapidly into the skin, acts as a "refatting" agent, and has good water-binding properties.
Treating Diseases/ Health Problems using Shea Butter
• Hay Fever
Applying Shea butter on the nostrils clears the blockage in the air passage and helps in improved breathing. This helps manage the key symptom of hay fever that causes labored breathing and congestion.
• Muscle Spasm
Muscle soreness management by shea butter is due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Certain constituents that inhibit the mediators of inflammation are present in Shea butter. The pain can be combatted by the application of shea butter in the affected area.
The pain and swelling related to arthritis can be managed due to Shea butter's anti-inflammatory properties. It fights the activity of the inflammatory protein related to arthritis.
Shea butter is filled with antioxidants, which prevent further damage of a wound by fighting against the free radicals and germs in the area. The wound contraction is catalyzed, and it also helps in the formation of collagen and new skin cells. The risk of infection is also reduced, and the healing is processed better.
• Skin Conditions
The Shea butter application can control any pain or inflammation related to skin conditions such as patchy skin, eczema, or psoriasis. The antioxidant and antibacterial property of the butter helps fight the cause and also helps with the inflammation. It also helps with dryness or itchiness. Shea butter can also be used to reduce stretch marks in pregnant women or even after delivery.
• Insect Bite
Shea butter helps in the healing of insect bites attributable to the presence of Vitamin A. It soothes the skin and promotes ameliorates the skin.
Shea butter can be used as nasal drops promoting relief from congestion and inflammation of nasal passage. It also assists in removing the mucus from the nose.
Saponins present in Shea butter lowers the cholesterol levels in the blood, inhibits cholesterol absorption in the body, and augments excretion.
The shea fruit pulp acts as a laxative and loosens stools, and promotes bowel movements helping patients with constipation feel relief.
• Hair Care
The vitamin A and E present in Shea butter protects hair from damage and promotes hair growth. An emollient property present softens and moisturizes hair. The fast absorption quality of shea butter helps fix the patch and dry scalp and coats the hair shaft, restoring moisture.
Shea butter has anti-aging properties and also helps to restore dried and wrinkled skin. It helps soften the skin and increases the cell regeneration process. Collagen synthesis is alleviated, rejuvenating the skin and contributes to keeping the skin supple and smooth, thus keeping it young.
• Sun Protection
Shea butter is an excellent sunscreen agent as it reflects some UV radiations from the sun and absorbs some, thus preventing most of the radiation from not reaching the skin. It moisturizes the skin and provides it with the nutrients it needs. It can be used daily as a sunscreen.
Forms of Shea Butter in Ayurveda with Recommended Dosage
Shea butter is available both in raw form and in an unprocessed manner. The raw form can be consumed directly or used in cooking. For external use, the dosage depends on the area applied. There is no certain dosage for shea butter, but excessive consumption is not healthy. Please consult your physician before determining any specific dosage for kids or yourself. The effects of overdosage have not to be found by science yet. In Ayurveda, Shea butter is used to mend Pitta and Vatidoshas related to skin and scalp.
Types of Ayurvedic Care with Shea Butter
Shea Butter can be consumed and applied in varied forms to help with many issues. Please consult your doctor before consuming or applying Shea butter in specified dosages to ensure you are not allergic to the nut. Let's see in which ways Shea butter can help us-
- Mix 50 g of Shea butter and six drops of coconut oil
- Make a smooth paste of the ingredient.
-Apply the paste to the affected area.
- Preserve the excess, if any, in an air-tight container.
- Mix Shea butter with Sandalwood or Lavender oil as per the requirement.
- Make a uniform paste.
- Regular application of this paste to the affected areas is recommended.
- The paste can be preserved for a long time use in an airtight container.
Dry Skin and Psoriasis
- Mix Shea Butter with Chamomile essential oil or jasmine oil
- Prepare a smooth paste.
-Regular application of the paste on the affected area.
- Paste can be preserved in a cool place in an airtight container.
Side Effects of Shea Butter
Shea butter is genuinely safe for both application and consumption. There are not many well-known side -effects, yet people with nut allergies should be really careful before use. It can cause adverse side effects such as skin reaction, breathing troubles, swelling of the tongue, or the throat's inner lining in such people. Some people do debate on the shea butter's pore-clogging properties due to its thick and dense consistency, but there is no strong proof of the same as others swear on it for clearing their acnes and leaving a clear skin. It is also safe for children and pregnant women, but at the doctor's discretion.
Precautions to be taken while using Shea Butter
Shea Butter might cause an allergic reaction in people allergic to latex. Though it is known to soothe rashes and help cure allergic skin reactions, it is advisable to consult your doctor to know about allergens before using Shea Butter. It can also be the cause of serious allergic reactions to people with nut allergies. Immediate medical attention is recommended in such cases.
Though Shea Butter consumption is safe and can be taken in food amounts during breastfeeding yet, it is advisable to avoid excessive consumption of Shea Butter. The amount can be decided after a discussion with a consultant or professional dietician or your doctor.
Minor Medicine Interaction
Shea butter may increase the risk of bleeding; thus, it is advised to consult a physician before consuming Shea butter in patients with bleeding disorders or those taking supplements or drugs that can increase the risk of bleeding or hemorrhage.
Shea Butter consumption is safe during pregnancy only when in a limited amount. It is recommended to avoid excessive consumption of Shea Butter and consult your physician before using Shea Butter during pregnancy before any complication.
1. What is the best time to use Shea Butter?
A: Shea butter can be used anytime you want. Any time of the day or anytime in the year, all-around year, you can safely use Shea butter. In the night and during winters, it can be used to moisturize. In the days and summer, it can be used as a sunscreen.
2. Can I eat Shea Butter directly?
A: Shea butter can be consumed directly. It contains antioxidants and nutrients. Its also used as a cooking ingredient. It is also used in certain chocolates giving it an eccentric yet delicious taste.
3. Can Shea Butter be used before swimming?
A: Shea butter provides a protective layer to the skin, shielding the hair roots from chlorine and salt against any damage such as rashes and allergies.
4. Where can I get Shea butter?
A: Shea butter is found in the market in the raw and unprocessed form. It is also available as a beauty product and a cosmetic ingredient in many products such as moisturizers, lip balms, and hair products.